Today was our first full day at the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians conference in Valparaiso, IN and it began with a Morning Prayer service in which several of the opening hymns were taught in song leader style, with no sheet music or words to read, just listen and repeat. I found the opening dialog to be most interesting:
In the beginning before time, before people, before anything was, all things were new. God was there.
Here in this place with devices and pixels and bodies and minds through water and the word we are born anew. God is here.
What today is new, tomorrow will be old. What today is flesh and blood tomorrow will be dust and ashes. God will be there.
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. we delight in the world God has inhabited. Trusting in the Spirit of the living Christ for God’s purposes to be accomplished through us, we believe and we adore.
God was there. God is here. God will be here.
One of my favorite hymns of the morning was from Sound the Bamboo, a compilation of Asian-American hymns. We sung “Great are your mercies, Heavenly Father” with words by Tzu-chen Chao. A Chinese gong, tambourine, obbligato cello, violin and flute were used for the accompaniment which made it sound very exotic.
At these conferences I am always delighted at the creative hymnody. Today’s Morning Prayer service had most of the hymns sung unaccompanied and in canon. With several hundred people in attendance, and all church musicians, you can imagine how energetic the singing is!
After Morning Prayer, we met in plenary session for a major address by Elizabeth Drescher, then had a separate meeting for ALCM members in Region 4. Lunch followed, and then I attended two workshops — the first was on “Bach Cantatas in Worship: How We Use Them and What They Teach Us,” led by Michael Costello of Grace Lutheran Church, River Forest, IL. He has only been in the position for five years and has already performed 40 Bach cantatas! They hold an annual “Bach Cantata Camp” for high schoolers which seems to be very successful in reaching this age group and getting these kids “hooked on Bach.” You can view a video of their program by clicking this link: http://www.bachvespers.org/camp/camp.mov
The second workshop I attended was “The Schwidder Project” led by Richard Tietjen and Joel Nickel on Ernst Schwidder, a liturgical artist. He had commissions from over 300 churches and mostly worked in wood. I was very glad I attended this session and hope to learn more about him and his work.
I will write in depth about this morning’s plenary session and tonight’s hymn festival in separate posts.